Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Buying A Used Car - STEP 2

STEP 2 - Research Vehicles and Inventory Online

Once you have settled on one or more local dealers that you can trust, go online to view their inventory.  The used vehicle inventory for most dealerships can easily be accessed online.  And, accessing the inventory online allows you time to look at the vehicles and research them without a high pressured salesman "breathing down your throat".

Once you have found one or more vehicles that you are interested in, research online vehicle reliability reports for the different models you are interested in.  Both Consumer Reports and Edmunds publish owner surveys and reviews and are good sources for finding out about troublesome vehicles.  Look online to see what others say about the year, make, and model of the vehicles that you are interested in.
You should also go online to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") website to see if the vehicle(s) have any recalls or known defects.  You will need to enter the year, make, and model of the vehicle(s).  Once you have done this, you will have access to all applicable recalls, technical service bulletins, consumer complaints, and defect investigations.  Service bulletins are notices that the manufacturer sends out to their dealerships to warn them about problems that have been discovered in particular model vehicles and how to try and fix them. The only way to know if your vehicle was repaired for any recalls or service bulletins is to check with your local dealer’s service department and get a vehicle repair history from them.

Once you have narrowed down your list of vehicles through research on NHTSA and online consumer reliability reports, you should obtain a vehicle history report online for the used vehicle(s) you are most interested in.  Most dealers will list the VIN of the vehicles in their inventory online.  There are three main sources of vehicle history reports online: Carfax, AutoCheck, and NMVTIS.  You should run all 3. 

Carfax is probably the best known and most trusted of the three. You can get a Carfax vehicle history report online for $39.99. According to Carfax, their vehicle history reports check for a long list of problems, including: prior accidents, mileage rollbacks or rollovers, multiple owners, structural damage, lease, taxi, or police use, salvage, rebuilt salvage, other vehicle brands, flood damage, total loss history, airbag deployment, hail damage, recall information, service and maintenance history, warranty information, and more. Carfax claims to have the most extensive vehicle history database in North America, with over 6 billion records. And, according to Carfax, they receive data from over 34,000 different sources. Vehicle history reports can be viewed on your computer, tablet, or smart phone, and CarFax also offers a 100% money back guarantee. To request a Carfax vehicle history report, click here.

AutoCheck is a slightly less well known, but widely used, competitor. You can get an AutoCheck vehicle histort report online for $29.99. According to AutoCheck, their database is built and maintained by Experian, who has exclusive data sharing relationships with many industry sources who provide Experian with access to exclusive data to available to AutoCheck's competitors. AutoCheck also reports that industry leaders such as NADA guides, CarMax, eBay Motors, Kelly Blue Book, and have chosen to provide AutoCheck vehicle history reports to their customers. AutoCheck recommends that you obtain and AutoCheck vehicle history report in conjunction with other reports to "fill in the gaps" in other vehicle history reports for issues that other providers do not cover. To request an AutoCheck vehicle history report, click here.

NMVTIS, or the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, was developed by the federal government. A vehicle history report from NMVTIS will cost you anywhere from $0.25 to $4.95. NMVTIS is operated and managed by the US Department of Justice. According to NMVTIS, their database provides records relating to current and previous state of title data, title issue dates, latest odometer data, theft history (if any), any title brands, salvage history, and total loss history. To request a NMVTIS vehicle history report for just 25 cents, click here.

A vehicle history report can help alert you before purchasing a problem vehicle. And, when making such a major purchase like a motor vehicle, you should be armed with vehicle history reports from all 3 of the above providers. This way, each report can fill in the gaps that the other may have missed and work together to give you the most accurate view of the vehicle's history available.

Finally, if your state provides title history searches online to the public, then you should take advantage of this free service.  To access the Ohio BMV Online Title Inquiry, click here.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 9 Years Running

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